Most college binge drinkers and drug users don’t develop lifelong problems. But new mental-health guidelines will label too many of them addicts and alcoholics.
By Maia Szalavitz
Are you or have you ever been a college binge drinker? Welcome to alcoholism, a diagnosis your college self could qualify for under the changes proposed to the next edition of psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, the DSM 5.
As the New York Times noted on Saturday in an article that rapidly became one of the most emailed, DSM 5 will have just one diagnosis for addiction problems, though it will be characterized as either mild, moderate or severe. Currently, alcohol and other drug problems come in two flavors. The first, “substance abuse” is a short-term, self-limiting problem: it encompasses most heavy drinking in college. The second “substance dependence,” is what everyone else calls addiction or alcoholism and is typically chronic and marked by relapses.
Fortunately, the new diagnosis will get rid of the confusing term “dependence” (physically needing a drug to function isn’t actually addiction) and the stigmatizing term “abuse.” Unfortunately, however, it will also tremendously elevate the number of people considered alcoholics. One Australian study suggested that using DSM 5 definitions will increase the number of people diagnosed with alcoholism by a stunning 60%.
Continue Reading: time.com